AJAASSPIB is an association of community water boards that directly engages communities in activities related to climate change adaption.
AJAASSPIB, created in 2003, is an association of 28 community water management boards that currently protects 14 forested water sources in the vicinity of the city of Olanchito, Honduras. These boards originated as a way to protect communities from water shortages after damage from Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Our mission is to actively engage communities in the sustainable management of forest resources to ensure clean and reliable water provision. We accomplish this through the development of microwatershed management plans, establishment of water user fees, educational activities such as the creation of 3-D microwatershed models, reforestation of degraded areas around important water sources, and installation of fuel-efficient stoves in homes to reduce fuel wood consumption.
These communities have 1,713 subscribers (members) who pay monthly fees for the management of their water sources, benefiting an overall population of 11,771 people. We have earned prestige at the national and international stage, participating in 2006 the World Water Forum and being one of 25 recipients of the 2012 UN Equator Prize at the Rio +20 Summit in Rio de Janeiro. In 2011, AJAASSPIB, together with its US partner, EcoLogic Development Fund, and the Municipality of Olanchito, signed an agreement to co-execute a strategy to protect the 16,000 acre Uchapa-Pimienta subwatershed, which supplies water to more than 80,000 people, and associated microwatersheds.
This prize would be used to carry out three main objectives: 1) construction of a new nursery used to reforest a degraded area around a microwatershed that supplies water to the member communities of San Dimas and San Gerónimo; 2) Construct 30 new fuel-efficient stoves for families; and 3) continue an environmental awareness campaign for water users in Olanchito to ensure that residents understand both the origins of their water and the importance of protecting these water sources.
Category of the action
What actions do you propose?
Each of these objectives has the general goal of setting in place long-term strategies to conserve, protect, and reduce pressure on the forested water sources that communities rely on for their drinking water. Additionally, the purpose of actively engaging these communities in these strategies is to educate them on issues related to climate change, environmental conservation, and natural resource management. This engagement ensures that they understand the effects of certain human actions on the health and availability of the resources they rely upon for their livelihoods.
Objective 1 –This objective seeks to put in place a series of actions that guarantees long-term access to clean and consistently flowing drinking water for two member-communities who do not currently have a strategy in place. Maintaining healthy forest cover around these microwatersheds also helps to reduce the risk of prolonged droughts and water shortages in these communities. The other component of this strategy involves the local water boards establishing environmental funds in which small monthly water user fees are to be paid by residents that help cover the costs associated with continued management of these water sources. The detailed activities for this objective are the following:
Activity 1.1: Community members construct a new community forest nursery to grow 12,000 trees that will later be reforested around a key microwatershed used by the communities of San Dimas and San Gerónimo.
Activity 1.2: Community members from five communities actively participate in the reforestation of mature saplings, monitoring, and taking inventory of the tree populations around the microwatershed
Activity 1.3: Community members participate in community meetings, the design and creation of 3-D watershed models, and field visits to the watershed areas.
Activity 1.4: Establish an environmental fund for each of these two communities in which residents pay monthly fees to their local water boards to protect and manage their watersheds and guarantee consistent flow and clean drinking water. Training workshops will also be conducted on the use of environmental funds.
Objective 2 –Traditionally, rural families in this region use open-pit fires, which demand a large amount and frequent extraction of fuel wood from the forest. This causes significant deforestation and thereby places tremendous pressure on forested water sources. The installation of fuel-efficient stoves in homes within these communities will help mitigate this problem. Beneficiary families are generally selected based on their need, but also their consistency of monthly water user fee payments.
Main activities for this objective include:
Activity 2.1: Convening a community meeting and interview process to evaluate and determine stove recipient families.
Activity 2.2: Building and installing fuel-efficient stoves for 30 families in the communities of San Dimas and San Gerónimo.
Activity 2.3: Training the families on the proper use, maintenance and benefits of the stoves so they can become self-sufficient in the future.
Activity 2.4: Monitoring the use of the stoves and providing technical assistance as needed.
Objective 3 – For several years now, we have been carrying out an awareness campaign in the City of Olanchito to educate local residents about the importance of preserving the Uchapa-Pimienta subwatershed for their drinking water and other uses. This campaign includes strategies such as passing out stickers and pamphlets in highly-trafficked areas, providing training and workshops for communities, and implementing an educational program for youth that includes activities such as designing 3-D models of microwatersheds.
Main activities for this objective include:
Activity 3.1: Designing and publishing educational materials such as informational pamphlets and stickers. Pass out at least 100 stickers and 2000 informational packets to residents in targeted areas of Olanchito so as to increase the overall percentage of residents in the municipality that have been provided information that helps them properly understand the issues surrounding the Uchapa and Pimienta watershed.
Activity 3.2: Forming a space for dialogue with representatives of the municipality Olanchito, and other local actors by convening at least four community meetings and assemblies. Ensuring that at least ten key local actors participate in a monthly roundtable discussion throughout the year.
We believe that this project has a strong correlation with climate change adaptation needs in the Central American region. Apart from long-term projections of higher temperatures and increased occurrences of extreme weather conditions, climate change threatens water security in many developing countries such as Honduras where water stress is already high. In rural Honduras, only a third of water delivery systems provide continual service and less than 14% deliver potable water. Deforestation and the degradation of rivers, caused primarily by unsustainable agricultural practices and the expansion of pastoral land use, have caused extensive water contamination and unreliable flow, thus compromising the health and food security of rural villagers.
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused massive damage to communities in this region. According to a report by the Inter-American Development Bank from 2004, widespread flooding occurred largely because degraded land from slash-and-burn agriculture meant the forests could not absorb any moisture. Weather events such as extreme hurricanes are expected to increase in frequency as a result of climate change. Therefore, it is imperative that rural region of developing countries that rely on smallholder agriculture and forested water sources for their livelihoods, and are already vulnerable to the effects of climate change, put in place comprehensive strategies that protect their food and water security.
According to the UN Water’s policy brief, Climate Change Adaptation: The Pivotal Role of Water (http://www.unwater.org/downloads/unw_ccpol_web.pdf), long-term sustainable adaptation to climate change will require integration of infrastructure, policy, and economic instruments, as well as behavioral changes. Furthermore, it states that developing countries like Honduras often have limited access to effective funding mechanisms for coordinated national climate change adaptation strategies. We believe that effective climate change adaptation in developing countries like Honduras requires local leadership and bottom-up solutions. The work of AJAASSPIB and our member communities is a strong example of this in that it provides immediate advantages to local and regional residents, but also has the potential to inspire replication of the approach in other locations, as well as at the national level.
The work we are carrying out promotes behavioral changes among local residents, mainly through the environmental awareness campaign for water users in Olanchito. Additionally, the establishment of environmental funds for individual communities to manage water sources and community involvement in reforestation of degraded watershed areas supports generating behavior change among residents by allowing them to understand the livelihood implications of proper versus improper management of their resources. The agreement between the Municipality of Olanchito and AJAASSPIB to commit financial resources to managing the most vital watershed to the municipality represents an effective mechanism to properly fund water management within user communities, while also attaining commitment from all sides to ‘buy in’ to ensuring the health of their water sources.
Lastly, agriculture is quite prevalent in this region of Honduras and a major source of livelihood. However, it is also a major contributor to deforestation and degradation of water sources and also highly susceptible to the effects of climate change due to the low latitude and semi-arid climate of this region. By implementing watershed management strategies at the local level, which include reforestation of degraded areas and decreasing deforestation levels through installation of fuel-efficient cookstoves, we are working to ensure long-term health of water sources while simultaneously supporting the long-term viability of agriculture to provide food and serve as a source of income for many in the region.
Beyond the local focus of our work, we also envision several medium to long-term strategies that will involve engaging other community development organizations and local and municipal governments to implement more concerted and coordinated climate change adaptation efforts across common landscapes. For example, our US-based partner, EcoLogic Development Fund, also works with a community development organization on the northern end of Pico Bonito National Park, in Yoro and Atlántida Departments, called the Alliance of Municipalities of Atlántida (MAMUCA). This group implements similar climate change adaptation strategies, such as community watershed management plans and fuel-efficient cookstove installation, but also trains and supports farmers in conversation to agroforestry techniques to mitigate the extensive deforestation and pressure on water sources caused by traditional migratory agriculture.
We have in recent years conducted learning exchanges with MAMUCA. However, we also see an opportunity to develop, along with our respective municipal governments, a broader region-wide strategy to conserve and manage the major water sources in the region, many of which are located within the Pico Bonito National Park area. This would recognize that many of the causes of water shortages and contamination, as well as the effects of climate change, are shared by communities across this region. These strategies would potentially include the following:
· Conservation and protection of approximately 235,000 acres of diverse tropical forests of Pico Bonito National Park.
· Engaging other community groups in the region to help expand the environmental awareness campaign for water uses beyond Olanchito and the Uchapa-Pimienta subwatershed. This would involve identifying major water sources in other municipalities and providing community groups in those areas with the training and materials needed to engage in similar campaigns.
· Learning exchanges and demonstrations led by representatives of AJAASSPIB for other peer groups in the region about how to implement Environmental Funds for their respective communities.
· Learning exchanges and assemblies led by representatives of AJAASSPIB and the Municipality of Olanchito for other municipalities in the region on the topic of creating partnerships to manage priority water sources.
· The formation of an alliance for the Pico Bonito Region Landscape with MAMUCA, Olanchito, and AJAASSPIB playing lead roles that would include a commitment to oversee the sustainable coordination of up to 1.2 million acres, including both standing forests and areas under sustainable productive use such as agroforestry and sustainable grazing.
In the event that the medium-to-long-term strategies outlined above were chosen to be implemented as an extension of AJAASSPIB’s climate change adaptation strategy, the budget would be adjusted accordingly. Mainly, the focus of our budget and fundraising efforts would shift from implementation toward allocating more money specifically towards efforts to strengthen and broaden the environmental awareness campaign beyond Olanchito, train communities on the implementation of Environmental Funds, nursery management, and watershed management, and transportation costs for materials and for personnel from AJAASSPIB and the Municipality of Olanchito to carry out trainings and exchanges.
Who will take these actions?
The direct execution of these activities will be led by the water boards associated with San Dima and San Gerónimo, with active participation at all stages by community members. Oversight and administration of all necessary technical and financial resources for all of these activities will be supported by the AJAASSPIB Board of Directors. The community participants will include men, women, and children. The nursery and improved stoves will be built in the beneficiary communities in partnership with the families receiving the stoves. A major requirement for a family receiving a stove is that each of these families agrees to reforest at least 50 trees as part of the microwatershed reforestation efforts. This ensures that not only are they reducing their overall consumption of fuel wood by using a fuel-efficient stove, but also directly helping to preserve the health of their principal drinking water source.
It is also important to note that EcoLogic Development Fund, an NGO based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has worked with us since 2007 on many of our community-led water management and forest conservation initiatives. EcoLogic offers both financial and technical support for these activities.
Where will these actions be taken?
The beneficiary communities of this project are located in the Aguan River Valley just south of Pico Bonito National Park, the second largest park in Honduras. They live in a particularly dry region with minimal economic opportunity – average annual family incomes here are 25% less than the national average. Even though a number of successful examples of watershed conservation have emerged in Honduras over the past decade, political instability has largely resulted in a lack of a coherent national strategy and policy framework to support these localized efforts and address the sustainability of water resources.
The Aguán Valley, surrounding the town of Olanchito, Yoro, Honduras, is a plateau that depends on a main tributary of the river for agricultural and livestock activities. However, the majority of drinking water originates from within Pico Bonito National Park, which has 264,000 acres of rich biodiversity, but also happens to be the largest reservoir of water sources in Caribbean Honduras.
The communities of San Dimas and San Gerónimo are located in the eastern sector of the municipality of Olanchito, Yoro, Honduras in an area of dry tropical forest. The forest nursery and fuel-efficient stoves will be constructed in a central area of these two communities.
What are other key benefits?
Microwatershed conservation is valuable for much more than just the provision of water. It ensures that participating communities gain the technical capacity, motivation, and sense of empowerment and ownership vital to conserving and restoring the forest area which is impacted by their daily activities. Additionally, strengthening local water boards and implementing water user fees has the benefit of directly engaging local residents in guaranteeing access to clean, safe drinking water, educating them on the source of their water and the importance of healthy forests, and forcing them to place a greater value on the availability of that water rather than taking it for granted. Lastly, our agreement with the Municipality of Olanchito to manage the Uchapa-Pimienta subwatershed offers a significant model for sustainable conservation and development at the regional level. It demonstrates that authorities are realizing more than ever before the economic value of their forests.
What are the proposal’s costs?
The costs associated with this proposal are the following:
1 - Construction of nurseries, planting of seedlings, materials for awareness campaign, and monitoring and evaluation.
2 - Construction of fuel-efficient stoves
3 - Transport of materials for fuel-efficient stoves
4 - Travel costs for AJASSPIB Project technician
5 - Administrative costs
Assuming that these activities will be conducted from January through December 2014, the schedule for specific project activities is the following:
Objective 1: The new community tree nursery will be constructed in January and tree saplings will be grown from February through April. During these months, community members will also be trained on nursery management, transplanting trees, and monitoring and evaluation. Saplings will be reforested in degraded microwatershed areas during May and June. Monitoring of these reforested areas will be conducted on a monthly basis from June through December. Creation of 3-D watershed models will be done in June for the purpose of youth being able to take an accurate picture of the microwatersheds to incorporate in their models. The establishment of Environmental Funds and negotiation over water user fees will occur during the summer months after reforestation of degraded areas around the microwatershed has taken place.
Objective 2: January will be used to identify stove beneficiary families based on their consistency of monthly water fee payments and their willingness to participate in reforestation activities. Trainings on stove benefits and proper stove use and maintenance will occur in February after recipients are selected and immediately following construction and installation of the stoves, which generally occurs in August and September, as this time of year generally works well in terms of weather and availability of contractors.
Objective 3: January will be used to plan out the specific activities related to that year’s environmental awareness campaign for the city of Olanchito. From February through May we will carry out a series of environmental awareness workshops and roundtable discussions for various community groups. Outreach efforts, including handing out fliers and sticker campaigns will occur throughout the course of the year in highly trafficked areas.
EcoLogic Development Fund, our long-time US partner, has also submitted a proposal for the Agriculture and Forestry contest to support their work in Honduras and Guatemala with implementation of an agroforestry technique with smallholder farmers known as ‘alley-cropping with Inga edulis trees.’
Specific to this contest, the proposal, Steps to an Ecology of Mind-Climate Change Impact/Adaptation Strategy in Africa, (https://www.climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/19/planId/1300024), has a similar theme to our proposal. Rural communities in Africa and in Central America often are some of the most minor contributors to climate change, yet have been repeatedly adapting to its effects for many decades. The authors of this proposal, like us, see the importance of educating local communities and civil society actors on how to respond to and protect themselves from the effects of climate change at the community level in the decades to come.